Nezar Akeel is the CEO and Founder of MAXPRO, the world’s first connected portable cable machine with resistance ranges from 5–300 pounds in a compact 10-pound frame. Nezar spent 25 years in the automotive industry before launching MAXPRO in 2020. Nezar’s design and manufacturing background is rooted in the desire to provide solutions that improve our day-to-day lives. That experience, and his passion for health and wellness, sparked the fire that is MAXPRO today.
Freelap USA: You took your company, MAXPRO, onto “Shark Tank” and landed a partnership with Mark Cuban. Can you first tell us a little bit about Max Pro and then about the process you went through to get ready for a huge opportunity like “Shark Tank”?
Nezar Akeel: MAXPRO is a relatively young company, less than three years old. We are all about freedom, fitness, and fun. In 2020, we garnered quite a bit of attention when we introduced the world to our connected portable cable machine that allows you to get up to 300 pounds of resistance in a compact 10-pound package.
We received several innovation awards for introducing something really unique into an industry with a lot of imitation. We didn’t have the investment or marketing budget of many of the larger players, but fortunately, our customers from all backgrounds created a grassroots movement that allowed us to grow our MAXPRO user base to more than 20,000 customers in 56 countries in the first two years.
MAXPRO is now being used by a variety of people, including military members, RV and truck drivers, WFH parents, seniors, and even professional athletes. Also, because of MAXPRO’s improved safety, it is often used by people with some physical limitations and for physical rehabilitation.
I have been a long-time viewer of “Shark Tank,” and honestly, it was the thrill of a lifetime to have made it onto the show. We are actually the highest first-year revenue company to ever be on the show!
The process took several months, and it was quite rigorous, with repeated pitch requests and more, without any assurance that we would ever actually make it onto the show. And even when we did film, there was no guarantee we would actually air. So, YES, it was quite a nerve-wracking process. I didn’t have a doubt about whether our product was worthy of being on the show, but I wasn’t sure if I could interest any “sharks” to make an offer. Fortunately, it worked out, with two sharks making offers!
Freelap USA: As a consumer of the MAXPRO, I can definitely say it is an innovation in the exercise space. New products are constantly coming to market, but we don’t often get truly innovative products. How was the MAXPRO thought up and then taken from idea to product?
Nezar Akeel: Simply enough, I just wanted to take a gym-level workout with me on the road when I traveled for business. Bodyweight exercises were boring, and I didn’t like using bands at all. I was really looking to simulate the high level of resistance you can get with weights and machines in a gym, but in something I could put in my suitcase. Thus…the MAXPRO!
Interestingly enough, I first had the idea over 22 years ago, but after some tinkering, things got too busy, and I just put it on the shelf for about 15 years. But in all that time, I still didn’t see anything like my idea. So I revisited the concept, made some improvements to the design, and set out to leverage the worldwide gig economy to help me turn the idea into an actual product.
I had engineers and designers from around the world helping me complete portions of the design and build the first prototypes. However, validating that a prototype worked was just the beginning. I then focused on getting costs down, finding supplier partners, and really turning the product into an actual business.
I was never in the direct-to-consumer space, so I had a lot to learn. Fortunately, along the way, I was able to bring on other key people who also believed in the vision, to support various parts of the business growth. Next, we are working on turning the business into a globally recognized brand.
Freelap USA: You spent 25+ years in the mechanical engineering space before founding MAXPRO. How has your career in an industry outside of fitness actually helped you in this new venture in the fitness industry?
Nezar Akeel: Because I grew up in the Detroit area—Motown, the Motor City—most of my career has been related to automotive design and manufacturing. So, knowledge of product development and world-class manufacturing techniques was something I had acquired over a 25-year career in the automotive world, and creating and producing a quality product at a competitive cost is what I was good at.
But honestly, that was just the beginning because, as I mentioned earlier, a direct-to-consumer business wasn’t something I was familiar with. This required a lot more knowledge of marketing, advertising, and, generally, how to reach potential customers in a cost-effective way.
I found out very quickly that this is easier said than done! In the end, no matter how good you think your product is, if it doesn’t resonate with customers and they don’t see the value, you won’t have the success you are looking for.
Freelap USA: Many performance coaches have an entrepreneurial mindset. What are your biggest pieces of advice for our audience who may be trying to launch a product, start a business, or live an entrepreneurial lifestyle?
Nezar Akeel: I would never discourage anyone who has an idea to make the world better or just improve somebody’s life in some small way. So, I will tell them that if they believe their idea can fly, don’t give up.
I’d say to just be as smart as possible on how you bring your idea to life for the world to enjoy. I also would say that wanting to make a lot of money is never a good reason to start a business. Rather, it’s the desire to help people or improve the world in some way that is a true motivator that will sustain your forward momentum when things aren’t going your way, or people aren’t seeing your vision.
Money will come as a by-product if the solution you provide is a good one, so focus on making the best, most innovative solution for whatever problem you see.
Lastly, never let a lack of money or resources be an obstacle to achieving your goals. Instead, you just need to be more resourceful. To launch a hardware and digital product line like MAXPRO, it can take millions of dollars to get it to market. I didn’t have anything close to that, so I just played the cards I was dealt and always found a way around or over whatever obstacle I encountered. It may have taken longer to do so, but I still found a way!
Freelap USA: Can you tell us some of the new projects or updates to the MAXPRO you’re working on? What can we expect from you in the future?
Nezar Akeel: No.
Just joking—we have a very robust product pipeline for both new hardware and digital products. It may not have been clear, but MAXPRO has built-in sensors and electronics that relay detailed user workout information to our MAXPRO Coaching App.
Along with the hardware, which includes the MAXPRO, Bench, Wall Track, Backpack, and other accessories, we also have developed a very extensive and feature-packed app that provides information often reserved for machines costing thousands of dollars more. The MAXPRO app not only counts reps but also provides velocity-based training, power readings for each rep, heart rate zones, and much more.
Some of our future products on the hardware side include the world’s first incline/decline workout bench that transforms into a rowing machine and uses MAXPRO as the resistance engine.
We have several other hardware products that we can’t announce yet, but we will be introducing them in the next year.
On the digital side, we are excited to launch our new social-sharing features in our app, which not only allow you to post, share, and motivate other MAXPRO users around the world but actually create your own workouts with your own exercises to then merge into our app. You can then make those workouts available for the whole community to try out and rank.
Our community will create content for our community, along with our own professionally built workouts.
Lastly, we will be launching our first two exercise video games, or “exergaming,” for the MAXPRO very soon. They will provide an element of fun while working out and hopefully motivate some people to exercise for the first time… And who doesn’t like games?!
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